County facing small snag on speed camera permitting

DOT official's interpretation puts new permit in question in wake of new law


LEE COUNTY – A glitch in the wording, along with some generosity of the county, could end up forcing the county to shelve its automated enforcement cameras until 2026.
The county was notified last week by an Iowa Department of Transportation official that according to the specific language of House File 2681 signed in May of this year, because the county hadn’t issued any citations before the end of the year, they may not be able to keep using the automated enforcement system currently in place on Hwy. 27.
The new law allows for agencies that had systems in place prior to Jan. 1, 2024, to continue to operate the systems in the same fashion they had prior to that date.
However, Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber said the county was issuing warnings in December as part of a data collection process.
Weber said he’s looking for an opinion from County Attorney Ross Braden on the new law, but said for now, the county will continue to use the enforcement systems to try to slow down traffic on Hwy. 27.
Lee County Supervisor Garry Seyb said he’s aware of the issue, but has been told by area legislators that Lee County is “good to go”.
“I am aware of one DOT official who has expressed there may be some concern,” Seyb said.
The bill was signed into law on May 17th and puts permitting and regulation of the camera systems in the hands of the DOT. It also defines what the revenue can be used for. That will likely require the county to revisit the ordinance.
Seyb, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, has said from the moment the cameras went live, he didn’t want the revenue generated by the system to be placed in the general fund. He said that could create a scenario where the county starts to rely on that money for operations, and then the law gets challenged or changed, and counties would then have to scramble to make up the funds that were being generated.
The snag could exist in a definition of automated traffic enforcement systems in the law which states:  "Automated or remote system for traffic law enforcement" or "system" means a camera or other optical device designed to work in conjunction with a speed measuring device to detect motor vehicles being operated in violation of the speed limit, the use of which results in the issuance of citations sent through the mail or by electronic means".
The definition leaves out the word "warnings" and Lee County had been issuing warnings at the outset of camera operations under DOT direction to capture traffic data for the Hwy. 27 corridor.
Revenue from citations minus the vendor’s fee are currently separated into an interest-bearing account. At the end of the 3rd quarter of each fiscal year, the county will deposit at least 25% into a County Reserve/Emergency Fund. After that deposit, any overtime expenses incurred by the sheriff’s department for expert testimony will be paid. Also 1% of the fees collected annually will go to Crimestoppers, 1% to the Lee County K9 Association, 1% to Lee County Narcotics Task Force; 1% to Lee County Attorney’s Office, 1% to Lee County Auditor’s office; 1% to Lee County EMS Ambulance, 1% to Lee County Secondary Roads, 5% to Lee County Sheriff’s Office. The remaining funds, including the interest, may be used at the discretion of the board of supervisors.
According to the specific language of the new law, agencies that were using automated enforcement systems for traffic enforcement prior to Jan. 1, 2024 can submit a list of locations and justifications for placement of the systems and receive a permit to continue those operations. Those who started after January 24th or those communities with less than 20,000 population cannot seek a permit until 2026.
The Lee County Sheriff's office worked with the DOT in installing the traffic cameras last winter.

Lee County, news, Iowa, speed cameras, law, HF 2681, Pen City current, Stacy Weber, Garry Seyb, supervisors, Department of Transportation,


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